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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter


by Carson McCullers

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Part 1: Chapter 5 Summary

  • Doctor Benedict Mady Copeland (Portia's dad) is sitting alone in his house that night, reading Spinoza. (Spinoza was a famous Dutch philosopher back in the late 1600s, and he was all about Enlightened Rationalism.) Suddenly Copeland hears a harmonica playing and knows that Willie, Portia, and Highboy are approaching.
  • Portia comes in and announces that she's going to stay for dinner with her dad. Highboy and Willie are going out on the town together.
  • The two make really awkward conversation while Portia cooks dinner. Basically, Doctor Copeland keeps repeating what Portia says, using "proper" grammar.
  • Doctor Copeland starts thinking about his life. He has delivered so many babies and has tons named after him. And he's distressed every day by how poor and desperate his "people" are.
  • Copeland has very progressive ideas and seems down with communism.
  • He tries to get people onboard with birth control, but no one ever listens to him.
  • Back in the day he could at least come home to his family – a wife and four kids. But now he's alone.
  • Portia tries to liven things up with a story about B.F. Mason, who was a con-artist and stole lots of money from local African Americans. She says that Mr. Mason will get his comeuppance when he dies and goes to hell. Well, then.
  • Copeland just gets more depressed.
  • Portia starts lecturing her dad about being an arrogant jerk and hurting people's feelings. But she actually ends up hurting his feelings though, even though Copeland rather rudely denies it.
  • Portia apologies and says they should try harder to get along.
  • Now we get a handy flashback about the Copelands. Doctor Copeland was a total control freak and pretty much drove his family away.
  • He tried to distance himself from what he saw as the negative aspects of the "Negro race," but he ended up alienating those around him, especially his wife Daisy who was proud of her heritage and her religion.
  • Back in the present, Portia and her dad eat dinner, and she fills him in on the Kellys (Mick's family).
  • The two also talk about Singer; it turns out Copeland recently delivered a deaf baby and wants to ask Singer for advice.
  • Willie and Highboy come back to pick up Portia, and Copeland invites the two in to chat.
  • The chatting is extremely awkward and Copeland ends up lecturing "William" and basically calling him a dunce. (Nice.)
  • He then apologizes, and the three young people leave.
  • Copeland returns to his kitchen to read Spinoza, Shakespeare, and Marx alone.

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